ARSENAL vs MANCHESTER UNITED
United travelled to the Emirates at the top of the table. Games away to the Arsenal are usually fun occasions and it was envisaged that this game would be no different.
In: Young and Carrick.
Out: Valencia and Schneiderlin.
- Less identifiable than positions or tactics is the lack of fight in this team; they need to show they ‘want it’. There were signs of it in the second half but not enough throughout the game.
- The hole in the midfield was scary. Ozil had a field day as Walcott pushed the defence back.
- Sanchez showed Darmian what he has to deal with. The pace of the Chilean gave Darmian trouble. Taking advantage of the space behind and the way he cut across our right back (and the central defenders too) was detrimental to United getting into the game.
- De Gea positioning needs to be questioned for the first goal as does the way he dived. He was too square on and didn’t track his run.
- After the third goal it was very difficult for United to get back into the game especially with the compact shape Arsenal took up.
- Substitutions/depth of squad – is Van Gaal really happy with thinking this game would have been changed with the introduction of Fellaini (poor touches) and Valencia (blocked crosses)? Why was Wilson put on so late?
The first 10 minutes condemned United to defeat. Arsenal’s pace, accuracy and incisiveness of their passing and the tenacity in reducing the space were in stark contrast to United’s lethargic approach and rank defending.
Arsenal took the game to the reds with three take-ons in the first five minutes. It took United twenty minutes to register one. Walcott and Sanchez tore United apart and supplying them was Ozil who was given plenty of time to pick the passes for the runs.
Compare this to the combined contribution of Rooney, Mata and Memphis and it makes for grim reading.
United wilted and the lack of composure showed an unexpected lack of nous from a team with title ambitions. The key area was the space in front of the defence and Carrick carried the task of patrolling this area as the usual 4-2-3-1 went to pot. He’s never looked more lonely than he did without Schweinsteiger who spent much of the half positioned between Mertesacker, Bellerin and Coquelin.
The lack of cover meant that United were opened too easily as Blind moved his positioning higher to assist Carrick.
Arsenal’s first goal was horrible to watch from the way Memphis was easily dispossessed, to the way Schweinsteiger or others failed to track Ozil’s run, how Darmian got the wrong side of Sanchez and the way De Gea dived. De Gea should know better than to be square on to the player at the byline. By turning his back he failed to spot Sanchez’s run and thus dived the wrong way, into rather than with the path of the ball.
By this time United were being sucked in and bypassed all over with the second goal completely skipping Carrick and taking advantage of the space behind.
After the second goal it was disheartening to see United unable to drum up any momentum and dare we say it any desire to get back into the game. The lack of forward and penetrative passing was concerning and even more so was that the key passes only came from Darmian.
At 3-0 it was curtains and the slim hope of getting back into the game evaporated as quickly as the strike from Sanchez flew past De Gea. The positioning of Darmian left a lot to be desired and allowing Sanchez the opportunity to run at and get beyond both he and Blind didn’t look good. It wasn’t helped by Smalling not being close enough to Walcott who laid Sanchez on. The defence was all at sea. Young was generally too high and with Smalling and Blind moving across to cover their was too much space around Darmian who was effectively defending half the pitch singlehandedly with Walcott and Sanchez baring down upon him. A recipe for diasater!
Arsenal became very compact when United moved forward or rather United were allowed to move forward because of Arsenal’s compactness.
It was during this period towards the end of the half that we saw the first ball played behind the Arsenal defence but the opportunities that did come United’s way were squandered too easily.
Fans were left bemused with the conundrum that Van Gaal faced, who could he bring on to change this?
Fellaini and Valencia came on for Darmian and Memphis and this substitution drew focus on Van Gaal’s statement to the club’s website in August stating he was happy with the squad. Can we honestly say that bringing Fellaini and Valencia on makes Van Gaal happy?
The substitutes must have found it tough coming into a team that was clearly under-performing. Fellaini sat centrally but was also moving forward in a diagonal manner across the pitch with little effect. He doesn’t cover himself in glory with how poor his touch can be.
Valencia showed poor touches and also a lack of quality in both his first touch and when crossing or passing in the final third. United’s connection between the fullbacks and the inside wingers isn’t what it should be.
The game was a non-event in the second half despite United creating a few more chances and Cech did well to repel some of the efforts. There was one situation which needed to happen more often. With Carrick on the ball Mata drew Gabrielle out from his position thus isolating Mertesacker, a dummy (of sorts) from Rooney took Schweinsteiger’s eye off the path of the ball.
Wilson came on for Mata in the 82nd minute…why?
With a disjointed team shape and performance. Unfortunately for the Reds captain, Rooney had a ‘mare and had little influence as he appeared tired and unable to control the ball.
He played a dutiful but pointless role in filling the hole Schweinsteiger would have been expected to occupy thus leaving Martial bereft up front.
The young Frenchman was isolated and none of the three behind him proved suitable in working with him. Memphis needs to be identified for his poor contribution. Too often he gets intercepted or blocked and needs to show a bit more in the tackle as he goes down far too easily, not in a diving sense but a lack of power. This is something you could accuse the whole team of…where’s the fight?
Arsenal did what United try but don’t do enough, quick, pass accuracy, pressing and the trio of Walcott, Sanchez and Ozil were standout. Yet they were given too much freedom and it doesn’t make sense why. True Schweinsteiger’s positioning was poor, pulling the likes of Young out of position but Carrick couldn’t do the job alone. United’s midfield was exposed by the positioning of Schweinsteiger and the width needed to attack Arsenal was not present.
Although United gained more of the possession in the second half you suspect that this resulted from Arsenal protecting their lead rather than United gaining the upper hand. With the exception of Martial and maybe Memphis there’s a lack of pace in this team. Memphis has the pace but seems incapable of doing anything with it at the moment whilst you compare him with Martial there is a purpose and menace about his runs.
Fourfourtwo.com said it best, there was “No thrust in United’s attack”. True.